Describing Frightened

It’s worrying your fingers while you wait for the dentist to come back and give you Novocaine for a wisdom tooth withdrawal.

It’s being the last group to perform in a series of short plays, and realizing you can’t remember your first line the second you get on stage.

It’s walking down the hall to find your basement door open, and then it hits you: where did you last see the cat? Did it get out?!

It’s the ticking clock in the back of your mind, counting down the days to when you move out for good. It’s wondering if it’ll really be alright, or if you’re just opening the door for something waiting in the wings.

#ROW80:

I’m this close to finishing the prequel short story draft for my news friends, which I avoided all weekend because sad things are tough to write, and I wanted to get it right the first time. (I’ll be talking more about this, and some other changes I’m making, in the next news issue.)

Oh, and there’s also been progress with book edits. Somehow, they’re making it through all my efforts at procrastination.

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Also, from today through the end of the month, my book is only $0.99 on Amazon. <3

Describing Sarcasm, #ROW80

It’s the biting comment you make after someone in a position of power over you says something mind-bendingly stupid, and yet those in the room fall for it.

When you roll your eyes and plaster a fake smile on your face, just so you can get through the conversation without screaming.

It’s the laugh you emit when people try to convince you they’re interested in what you have to say, even though you’ve been bought this way before, and it didn’t end well for you.

When you play nice and agree to work with something that clearly isn’t right, so you make every act elaborate and unnecessary to make sure everyone knows what position you’ve taken.

#ROW80:

Forgot this part until about half an hour ago. 🙁

Handwriting the book 2 prequel short story. It’s either going to be longer than expected, or just the right length, with some changes I had no idea I’d have to make because what plays out in my head is different than how I planned it at the end of 2015. Go figure! Now, to choose which version to go with: the longer, or the more pre-planned…

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Describing Judgment, and #ROW80 Progress

It’s making fun of my mom and Sister 2 for watching the Bachelor a couple years ago, and then stopping every so often, mesmerized and yet self-loathing for allowing myself to become so captivated.

It’s falling in line with the two of them, but in the “okay” sort of fashion: the one where you sit with popcorn in your lap, sneering at the lines of women who sign up for this show. But not just the fact that they signed up: the fact that they’re dressed in gaudy clothes, and three layers of makeup. The fact that they all look the same, sound the same, act the same, treat each other the same, but in different shades of cruelty.

It’s asking each other “but why would any self-respecting woman even begin to think she can actually find love on a TV show?

It’s feeling like a bigger, better, smarter person for not falling for it, not signing up, not being one of those clone girls who says the same thing every other clone girl does when she gets interviewed in their one-on-one back rooms: I’m just so in love. I think I’m falling for him. He’s so hot. This is the most incredible experience.

It’s watching them get googly-eyed over a guy they’ve never met, and know nothing about, and rolling my own eyes. It’s listening to them get jealous and petty when other girls express the same interest, and scoffing at them for not remembering that all the girls who are on the show are on it for the same reason. It’s watching them cry and sob when they start interpreting the guy’s actions, or get booted off the show, and laughing to myself because “you didn’t really know him” and “you went on one date, how can you say you’re in love?”

It’s yelling, “This is what you signed up for!” at the screen when they all, inevitably, tear up about how they didn’t expect it to be like this, they didn’t expect it to be this hard, they didn’t expect to have to fight for someone’s attention.

It’s listening to them talk about all the reasons why they’re doing this as a “last resort,” and hearing the same fears I had about being lovable and finding someone, and realizing they’re just like me, at the core.

What right do I have to judge? Hell, I thought of online dating as a last resort to finding anyone. Sure, the show is designed to be fake, with set-up drama, but the people involved, and their emotions, are very, very real.

#ROW80:

I’m making progress! I think I’m almost at 30,000 typed words, but there’s a notebook on my desk with at least 5,000 in it. The notebook is probably the least rambling part of the whole story. On the computer, Swans 2 reads like my college diary: lots of speculative thoughts from a young woman who believes she’s in the throes of a real relationship, but has plenty of doubts and is still, at the core, dramatic.

Which is unlike the shero of Swans 2, who is still a teen, and is actually in a real relationship. Otherwise, the story and my diary are similar. I have a ton of revision to do, and a two tons of pacing to increase to actually, you know, get to the end by the end of this ROW80 session. We’ll see. The side plots are definitely pushed to the side in favor of the romance between the hero and shero, and I keep thinking “if you bring in those plots, you can both weave them into the story, and you can have them written up, all before you revise, so that you don’t have to go back and actually write the parts you’re avoiding.”

Except my brain is having too much fun throwing things at me when I’m not looking. It’s making this particular car very hard to steer in the direction I was aiming for. But all writing is rewriting, and just because this draft isn’t doing what I like, doesn’t mean I can’t rearrange it later.

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Describing Shame, and #ROW80

It’s telling your best friend something private and secret about yourself, and then listening to her reprimand you for even having those thoughts at all.

It’s the hot-cold flush you feel afterwards, like the room is too big and too small all at once.

It’s the way you hold your hands in your lap, averting your eyes, trying to shrink until she forgets what you said, forgives what you said, so maybe you can, too.

It’s the gulf you feel growing in the space between you as you finish whatever it was you were doing — why are we even here? you ask yourself, watching the TV flicker and the evening light grow dim. oh yeah, you remember, shaking your head a little bit and not enough to attract her attention, thank god. we were hanging out. — and wondering how fast you can make the day end without seeming rude.

It’s the way the blood drains from your cheeks whenever she talks to you for the rest of the night. It’s the way your words stick to your throat as you try not to ask, are you still mad, any time she asks you a question and you have to find a way to come back to center, bring yourself back to the room, warm up to her again, act like nothing’s wrong.

It’s the way she won’t look at you for more than two seconds. It’s the wondering if she’s embarrassed, too, and then the voice in the back of your head hissing, of course she’s not, you idiot. what does she have to be embarrassed about?

It’s the wooden feeling you get when she hugs you goodbye at the end of the night. It’s the regret you feel watching her leave, the sadness you feel that there’s so much between you that’s now locked up and closed in and can never be let out again. It’s the gladness that she’s gone, and the fear, to:

Will she take what you said to the grave? Will she let it out? Is it really as bad as I think it is? How long do I have to lock it up for?

#ROW80 update:

Right now, Swans is still going pretty strong, and I’m fairly confident that the real bones of the story are there. It’s going to need way more meat, though. Tons of reorganizing, too. But this is okay! Bare bones drafts are fine by me. I tend to need to add more later, anyway, because my ideas come too fast sometimes, so when characters start talking, all those surrounding nuances get lost.

I’m learning that I love first drafts for their sheer messiness. I love them for being the place where I can tell, not show, the story. And I love revision for being the slower, more methodical place where I can study what’s going on, make sense of it, and then recreate it so that you all can get the best of everything in the story.

Also, I’m working on a quick intro short story for my second book in the Almost Human series. Let me clarify: it’s a deleted scene that I deleted before I got to write it because it didn’t start close enough to book 2’s main story line to keep around. But now, I’m writing it up, and I’m not sure what exactly I’m going to do with it just yet, except that if you’re a news friend, you’ll be the first to read it when it’s done. <3

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Describing Openness

It’s wanting to go out, until you actually get asked to do something, and then saying you’ll go anyway because didn’t you just want this?

When you’re out, it’s reminding yourself why you’re there, and not at home.

It’s reminding yourself that you wanted this, you whined about this, you longed for this.

It’s still not feeling fulfilled. It’s the voice in the back of your head whispering, “Let’s just get out, this was stupid, I hate doing this, and besides, this place is a dump.”

When you go to tell your friends you’re done, it’s the bright, excited smiles on their faces, and the bracing way they grab your arms to tell you how happy they are to see you, how much they missed you, and how it’s great to see you coming out with them.

It’s the soggy feeling of watching your plans to leave slip away, their foundations crumbling, no matter how hard your discomfort tries to hold them in place. It’s wondering what your words and fears would do to the happy smiles on your friends’ faces.

When you start to wonder, it’s the mean little voice in the back of your head whispering, “if they were really your friends, they wouldn’t have asked you to come out here in the first place. They’d know you better.”

As you start to look for your keys, it’s the heavy, leaden feeling you get when you realize you’re being a chump for walking away when you promised that young, sprightly part of yourself that you’d go out if you got asked. It’s the cotton-tongue feeling of knowing that sprightly version of yourself is probably ready to start crying in the bathroom, shutting the door behind itself and punishing you with silence for breaking its heart.

When you recognize this, it’s the slow way you put your keys back into your pocket. It’s the feeling you get where you know the sprightly version of yourself has lifted its head, daring to be hopeful. It’s the smile you plaster to your face as you join your group again, and focus on the conversation, instead of your own discomfort.

It’s the feeling you get when that plaster smile becomes real, and then grows into laughter, and then fades into tiredness. It’s the warmth you feel when, at the end of the day, you all get up, get your coats, and promise to do this again sometime.

When you walk out, it’s the resolve you feel that yes, you will do this again. This was fun.

Even when you know how much of a struggle it will be to motivate yourself out the door.

#ROW80 update: I’m back to writing 1,000 words a day. I was going to try for writing 2,000 words a day, to match my old NaNo schedule, but ouch. It’s been a while — a year and a half? — since I’ve done that.

A (big) part of this is the fact that I changed keyboards to reduce the pain in my wrists. Now, I’ve been working with this keyboard since last fall, and my hands don’t hurt nearly as much anymore, but I don’t use it at work. So whatever gains I make with practicing on it are tempered by 40 hours a day of not using it at all.

I’m getting way better, though. I can type about half my usual speed, which is improved from a quarter of my normal speed, and sometimes, if I’m not thinking about it, I can just get into the groove without slowing. I make plenty of mistakes, though. Slow and steady, and all that jazz.

The other part of not doing 2,000 words a day is that I’m more comfortable with the 1,000 words. If I have other ideas during the day, I’ll write more, but I’m not pushing it. Anything extra will get added in later. Those are my fun words. I think I can make some decent time on these stories at the pace I’m going.

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Describing Energetic

It’s the splash of fresh-squeezed orange juice in your glass on a Saturday morning after a restful sleep, with the sun shining through newly-cleaned windows.

It’s the leap and spin of a young ballet dancer breaking in their first pair of pointe shoes.

It is the sound of a kitten, gripping, climbing, and hopping over a baby gate to escape the confines of their play room, and explore the rest of the house.

It’s fast music on a highway, the windows down, the breeze crashing through your hair.

It’s a park full of children in shorts, scrambling backwards up the slide and the money bars, and making the kids around them shout with irritation.

It’s the adrenaline racing through your legs as you clamber up the side of a snow-covered hill, sled in hand, cheeks frosty from the biting wind, your mouth wide open to suck in breaths.

It’s the scream–you can’t help yourself–that wracks your throat when the roller coaster makes its first major drop. It’s your hands clenching the metal bar holding you to your seat, your fingers freezing with the wind, and burning from gripping on so tight.

It’s the fiery pop that explodes on your tongue when a peppercorn crushes between your teeth.

It’s the lazy spin of rainbow-colored clothes on the lines hanging between apartment buildings.

It’s a blast of cold water to your face when you need to wake up.

It’s the smell of new rains, and warming air, after a blistering winter.

Describing Inspiration

It is the flush of heat that comes over your cheeks in the middle of the day, probably during a boring class, or an overlong meeting, or a family reunion that couldn’t go more wrong.

It is the punch-drunk giggle you emit when a brilliant save arrives to pull you from possible disaster in a project.

It is the grinning little pixie that flops onto your shoulder to steer you down a new direction just when you can feel your whole grand plan coming together.

It is the Muse lounging in the corner of the room, reaching out to your work station and crumpling up all your ideas when you don’t think of something it likes.

It is the raunchy joke your otherwise uptight aunt lets slip at just the right time, and makes you think, “What else don’t I know about her?”

It is the trip to a dry-mouthed museum with the spot of brilliant, blisteringly hot and intense color at the back of the building, in one of the larger halls, that you just can’t tear your eyes away from.

<a data-flickr-embed=”true”  href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/132871175@N04/19428619343/in/pool-wana/” title=”Winning starts with beginning”><img src=”https://farm1.staticflickr.com/317/19428619343_4fde08d96a.jpg” width=”500″ height=”500″ alt=”Winning starts with beginning”></a><script async src=”//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

It is the thunderous song, the lilting song, the tender song, the tearful song, the hopeful song, that you just need to capture in some physical, tangible way, so that whenever someone sees your work, and hear the song alongside it, they’ll know the two have always belonged together.

It is the enormous dust bunny you uncovered a spider under a pile of junk you’ve been meaning to move, and now you just have to clean everything spotless before you can fall asleep.

It’s the frustration you feel when you know that something has to be done, but no one is doing anything about it, and you realize, as Ann Patchett did, “If I can form the sentence: ‘whose responsibility is it to…,’ then it must be my responsibility to do [insert whatever you think has to be done here].”

It is the first real plunge of your hands in the soil, on the first real day you chose to work outside, and the amazement you become overwhelmed with at the thought of how miraculous life is. It is the sudden, must-be-done-now desire to be a part of that–to flood your world with plants until the entire place is bright with sun-happy blooms.

March

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

hair caught

The trees are people,

Their branches are limbs and

Their twigs and leaves,

Fingers and fingernails.

As the cold melts into the bones of the earth,

Their twisted root-feet rise from the ground,

Crashing through the chilly surface with a shower of dirt and

The drip of snowmelt.

 mountains

Glancing up at the sky,

A young man,

His scarf pulled,

Smart,

Around his neck,

Hands tucked in

Triangular jacket pockets.

A smile tugs at his lips.

A dimple shadows the corner of his mouth.

“My season,” he whispers, and

Even then,

His voice rumbles across the plains and valleys bordered by the trees.

bunny

Holding himself upright,

He crunches down the path,

His boots snapping ice-clad twigs underfoot.

From his left hand,

He drops a trail of silver sand.

From his right,

He sprinkles dove-down.

The leaves of flowers slice past the lingering snow

As pink noses and the trembling tips of soft, furry ears

Rise from deeply-sunken holes in the ground.

Save

February

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

The snow begins to

Thaw,

And soft rain

Trickles

Across barren tree limbs,

Down

To the rich, solid earth

Beneath

Slush piles and patches of

Ice.

Touch my hand in

Old age,

And fade into the

Low rising sun as

The winter of your time

Ends.

I will touch your babe’s

Heart

When the child is

Expelled

From its mothers

Womb.

I will draw your babe’s

Eyes,

The way I drew yours,

And I will hold them

Side

By side, while your

Soul

Lingers at my shoulder,

Then

Stares up at me

From

Between soft, new folds

Of

Skin, your legacy extended

In your grandchildren.

January

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

An old woman sits on the northernmost bench of the park between two twisted, barren trees. She wears a long scarf around her neck and her coat falls down beyond her knees. Both match the line of her lowered brow and the chiseled, downward slant of her mouth.

On closer inspection, she appears younger than her presumed years, with flaxen hair and soft eyes. She catches you staring and offers a smile that hardly brings any color to her cheeks. You wonder if she notices the swollen sky, the buildings lined in jagged rows, and how the metal of the bench threatens frostbite to uncovered fingers at the merest brush of exposed skin.

“Shouldn’t you be inside?” she asks. Her words are clear and ring with assurance.

“I’m not cold,” you say, though your hands crawl into your pockets.

Her eyes glint and their softness turns into amusement. Now her smile lifts. She looks over her left shoulder, her nose to the wind. “Really? You will be.”

Almost on cue, the wind picks up, driving snowflakes with the touch of needles into your cheek. You duck and hustle away, keeping your shoulders hunched so that the snow can only collect on your back. The bus stop is only steps away. Inside, you give a hearty shudder and shed a layer of snow on the ground.

The woman stays on her bench, stretching her legs in front of her and sticking her hands deeper into her pockets. You don’t see anyone else approach her that day.